Politics in the Steps of Suspense Master By Essam Zakarea

in 29th Cairo International Film Festival

by Essam Zakarea

Alfred Hitchcock, who loved to make thrillers which were inspired by political events of his time, would had been happy to direct this story about an “innocent” suspect, who is subjected to police surveillance and his friends and wife’s doubts in a European city after September 11th.

Folgeschaden (damaging after-effects) according to its original German title, or Seeds of Doubt according to its English title, is one of some recent films which are inspired by the situation of the world following 9/11 and its dark consequences. The film, written by Florian Hanig and directed by Samir Nasr, follows the steps of the suspense master Hitchcock, but also the steps of Costa Gavras, whose films, such as Z and Hanna K were engaged in the complicated and hot political topics of the 70s and 80s. In his first feature film, Nasr transforms originally kitsch T.V. crime thrillers into a powerful social drama, which exposes racial and religious stigmatizing of each other. Seeds of Doubt is also a love story about how love can be shattered under the weight of politics a la Graham Greene style.

We, the spectators, receive the story through the film’s main character, Maya (Silke Bodenbender), a young German art designer, who is married to an Arab Muslim scientist in today’s Hamburg. Maya, her husband Tarik Silmani (Mehdi Nebbou) and their only son Karim are a happy and loving family until their life is interrupted by increasingly growing seeds of fear and doubt. In a seemingly friendly birthday dinner at the beginning of the film, Maya’s boss makes anti-Muslim comments which provoke Tarik and he responds in a similarly hostile way. Maya’s boss denounces Tarik to the police reporting his anti-Western comments. Then the police discover that Tarik had attended a wedding party which was also attended by an attacker of 9/11. Maya is visited by detectives and discovers Tarik didn’t tell her about the wedding. Things get worse when Tarik is visited by an extremist friend from Tehran and then two Ebola viruses disappear from Tarik’s laboratory. He also mysteriously travels to France on the same day when Paris is hit by terrorist gas attacks. The film reaches its peaks here with its conservative cinematography and irritating score. Maya’s trust in Tarik shakes bit by bit, so much that she finally goes to the police to denounce her own husband.

While we can not accept the behaviour of Maya’s boss at the beginning, we end by accepting Maya and sympathise with her. Here lies the power of this film which manages to drag its spectator into his trap by putting us in the same shoes of Maya and her boss. Then the film exposes our complicity and lets us feel ashamed when both Maya and the spectator discover their mistake. Only here can we appreciate the director’s clever plan to turn a T.V. mystery movie into a political statement.

Although it starts unpromisingly, Seeds of Doubt ends with breathtaking scenes, in which we are no longer able to strictly define right from wrong. Alas, the film could not hold its boldness to the very end and spoils much of its impact with a naive happy ending.